Hold up. Anger is good for you?

Remember that time I wrote about anger? (You know, yesterday.)

Turns out I couldn’t just sit with it.

I spent the night journaling about anger and why it shows up in my life.

I wanted to understand it as if it were the most interesting thing about me.

I wanted to know what patterns lived in my anger and when it was more likely to show up.

I wanted to know what benefits it offered me. After all, I wouldn’t continue to allow it to show up if I weren’t getting something out of it.

What I uncovered was fascinating. Including all of the ways in which anger was benefiting me.

When I’m angry…

  • I get taken seriously.
  • I get attention.
  • I get my needs met.
  • I get left alone.
  • I get sympathy and support from friends.
  • I feel powerful.
  • I am motivated to make changes.
  • I feel a release of built up energy and emotion.

Curious to see if my experience of anger was the norm, I spent the rest of the night researching anger. To see what it meant in evolutionary, spiritual, and psychological terms.

Again, I was surprised by what I found.

Turns out, anger is a good thing. Particularly when looking at the ways in which anger is expressed.

Article after article talked about the benefits of anger, saying that angry people are more likely to be optimistic, have better relationships, be more self-aware, and actually get what they want.

The old belief (and the one that I’ve been carrying around with me for a long time) is that anger is bad. The new belief — and current trend in research — is that anger is a highly effective and beneficial emotion.

In fact, labeling an emotion of any kind as good or bad is fairly misleading. Instead, researchers are advocating for a new system where emotion is judged by its “motivational direction” — defined as the impulse to approach, or move toward something desired (activates the left frontal cortex), and the impulse to withdraw, or move away from unpleasantness (activates the right frontal cortex).

Anger consistently activates the left side of the brain, meaning that although we experience anger as a negative emotion, it actually helps to bring positive change in our lives as we work to uncover what made us angry and eliminate it.

Amazing, right?

Knowing that my anger is really about getting my needs met and less about a character flaw is a total relief.

I am able to let myself off the hook; to step outside of the emotion and get a better understanding of what it is all about. 

And that is making all the difference.

What about you? How does this new view of anger change things (if at all) for you? Does it help you see the power in your emotions? Does it help you feel differently about your responses to the world around you?

More about Emily Levenson

Emily Levenson is a therapist turned holistic health coach, podcaster, meditation encourager, and seeker of everyday magic. Emily recently kicked off her third #The100DayProject, focusing her efforts on daily meditation.

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